In November 2005, Bishop Gene Robinson came to the UK and addressed the congregations at two services, one in London and the other in Manchester, on the occasion of Changing Attitude England’s 10th anniversary celebrations. Changing Attitude is proud to have welcomed Bishop Gene to the UK and count him as a friend. We have been anticipating welcoming Bishop Gene to the UK again in July 2008 when he attends the Lambeth Conference. We still hope to welcome Bishop Gene and pray that an unconditional invitation will be extended to him.
Changing Attitude England does not believe that any lawfully elected and consecrated bishop should be excluded from the Lambeth Conference. We understand the logic behind the decision not to invite some 10 bishops at the moment. We do not agree with the decision. There is huge anger on both sides of the Atlantic as a result of the failure to invite Bishop Gene when the first invitations were sent out. There is anger on behalf of the failure to invite Bishop Martyn Minns to Lambeth as well as the failure to invite Bishop Gene.
We believe it is vital that Bishop Gene is present at Lambeth, vital for the health of the whole Anglican Communion, vital for the faith of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Anglicans. Bishop Gene’s presence will give us hope and assurance that neither we nor he are cast as second-class citizens in our Church or in the Kingdom of God. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to reconsider his decision.
Changing Attitude England is a founder-member of InclusiveChurch and is committed to the goals and vision of InclusiveChurch. We have been asked by some groups and individuals to withdraw our support and publicly dissociate ourselves from InclusiveChurch.
Changing Attitude England is committed to a totally inclusive Anglican Communion. We take very seriously the challenges that have been extended to InclusiveChurch by the selective invitations to Lambeth 2008. How inclusive is Inclusive? We are working for a fully inclusive church, for LGBT people, our friends and families, for conservative evangelicals and everyone who has attacked and vilified us because of our sexuality. We do not believe there is any alternative to this radical challenge to the church, a challenge which took our Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, his ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit challenges, inspires and resources us to be radically inclusive. Jesus invites us to be radically loving and truthful.
Changing Attitude England believes in positive engagement, especially with those who are fundamentally opposed to what we are working for. The Listening Process presents us with a serious challenge. We cannot hope to be listened to in depth unless we are prepared to meet across difference and listen with equal seriousness and respect. Listening will cease if any one group, CANA or The Episcopal Church, Changing Attitude England or Anglican Mainstream, decides to withdraw from the structures of the Anglican Communion. This means compromise. Some believe the time for compromise over the place of LGBT people in our church is over.
The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, has just returned from Togo, West Africa, where he met 30 lesbian and gay leaders from the diocesan groups of Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) and West African Christian LGBT groups. They are committed Christians. The members of CAN are fully committed to their Anglican congregations. They are also deeply distressed by the failure to invite Bishop Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference.
They represent over 2,000 LGBT Anglican members of CAN. They represent the tip of an iceberg. There are tens of thousands of lesbian and gay Anglicans in every African Anglican Province. Were The Episcopal Church to pursue a strategy of disengagement from the Communion, and withdraw from the Lambeth Conference in 2008, these African gay Christians would be among those feeling abandoned. They would be left to the abusive, homophobic attacks of their Primates and bishops. They are people of great courage and faith. They need us, our solidarity with them as they work to achieve recognition and a safe space within church and society.
Changing Attitude England prays that the partner organisations of InclusiveChurch and our friends in The Episcopal Church will continue to engage with the Communion with graciousness and generosity, even when you are deeply distressed and unhappy with the events of this week. We do not believe that to threaten schism is ever a right response when decisions have been made which are not in accord with our most deeply held principles. The Anglican Communion needs the witness of The Episcopal Church now more than ever, and LGBT Anglicans in every Province need the holy passion and anger that inspires the call to justice and truth that is such a powerful part of the vision of our American brothers and sisters.
Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England
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